Columbia PhD student accuses school administrators of wanting 'students to die of dehydration and starvation' in occupied campus building

Her Instagram shows King-Slutsky identifying as a lesbian and attending Pride.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

A protester at Columbia University spoke out on Tuesday and delivered the demands of those occupying Hamilton Hall on the school's Morningside campus. The protester was identified as Johanna King-Slutsky, who has been a campus activist at least since 2021. She was with the Student Workers of Columbia and is a PhD student in English and Comparative Literature. 

"Why should the university be obligated to provide food to people who've taken over a building?" She was asked. Officers would move onto the campus later that evening.

"Well uh first of all we're saying that they should be obligated to provide food for students who pay for a meal plan here." Press was later blocked from campus.

"You mentioned that there was a request that food and water be brought in," the reporter pressed. 

"To allow it to be brought in," she said. "I mean, well I guess it's ultimately a question of what kind of community and obligation Columbia feels it has to its students. Do you want students to die of dehydration and starvation or get severely ill even they disagree with you? If the answer is no, then you should allow basic—I mean it's crazy to say because we are on an Ivy League campus but this is like basic humanitarian aid we're asking for. Like, could people please have a glass of water."

King-Slutsky had been listed on Columbia's website as a PhD student on Tuesday morning, but by evening, that page was missing. Her biography read "My dissertation is on fantasies of limitless energy in the transatlantic Romantic imagination from 1760-1860. My goal is to write a prehistory of metabolic rift, Marx’s term for the disruption of energy circuits caused by industrialization under capitalism. I am particularly interested in theories of the imagination and poetry as interpreted through a Marxian lens in order to update and propose an alternative to historicist ideological critiques of the Romantic imagination. Prior to joining Columbia, I worked as a political strategist for leftist and progressive causes and remain active in the higher education labor movement."

"She is a paid instructor & PhD candidate at Columbia studying "theories of the imagination & poetry as interpreted through a Marxian lens," said Jordan Schachtel.

"But they did put themselves in that, very deliberately," the reporter said to King-Slutsky outside Hamilton Hall, "in that situation, in that position, so it seems like you're saying 'we want to be revolutionaries, we want to take over the building, now would you please bring us some food and water."

"No one's asking them to bring in anything," she said, "we're asking them to not violently stop us from bringing in basic humanitarian aid."

Another reporter asked if the school administration had been stopping the protesters, students and occupiers from bringing supplies into the building.

"We're looking for a commitment from them that they will not stop it," she said, going on to say, when pressed, "I don't know the extent that is has been attempted, but we're looking for a commitment."

Her Instagram shows King-Slutsky identifying as a lesbian and attending Pride.

King-Slutsky has a long history of activism. In January, she attended an event where the head of the UAW was speaking. "Johannah King-Slutzky, a Columbia University graduate student and member of the student workers union within the UAW, was one of several attendees who chanted 'ceasefire now' during Fain’s afternoon speech Monday. The union called for a ceasefire in Gaza in December," WHYY reported. 

“Right now he’s done nothing to earn my vote,” WHYY reported King-Slutzky as saying, because “he has not acted with urgency to stop the genocide in Gaza.”

In 2021, she participated in a campus strike of graduate student workers.

She spoke to Democracy Now about the graduate student worker strike, saying that it was the second strike that year. "We really see ourselves as part of a broader labor movement, both in higher education, which has been facing terrible trends of adjuntification, and administrative overreach, and in the labor movement overall."

King-Slutsky claimed to feel she and her graduate student worker colleagues were "lambs being raised for the slaughter."


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